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Columbia judicial appointment questioned

Feb 15, 2011 6:17 am
[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="200" caption="Kinderhook supervisor Pat Grattan, seen here in an image from ccscoop, is under fire for accepting a second position as court attorney for Judge Paul Czajka."][/caption]The role of Republican caucus politics in local government is being raised as part of a formal complaint being filed against the recent appointment of Kinderhook Supervisor Pat Grattan as Columbia County Court Judge Paul Czajka’s court attorney last month. According to a piece in the Register-Star, Grattan, who has served as a mayor of Valatie and as an assistant county attorney in the past, was given approval Jan. 25 from Hon. Michael V. Coccoma, Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for courts outside of New York City, to take on the job which lasts until Dec. 31, 2011; with the caveat that if he runs for Kinderhook supervisor again he’ll have to seek approval from the third judicial district again, as well. He said he’d rather not comment on how much his salary will be as court attorney. The complaint that's been filed alleges, however, that Grattan serving as a court attorney and a supervisor is “incompatible,” because “the supervisor of Kinderhook plays a prominent role in the Republican caucus and in deciding county policies and procedures as well as directing the operation of county departments.” Grattan’s participation in the county Republican caucus, the complaint continues, “is likely to implicate Judge Czajka in politics" and might force the judge to recuse himself from case after case, for instance if residents of Kinderhook are involved. The state’s Unified Court System approved Grattan’s appointment “with the understanding that the work avoids any appearance of conflict of interest,” according to the letter signed by Judge Coccoma. Grattan is not to serve on the BOS’ Human Services and Legal Committees and should not do any BOS work while he’s at the courthouse, the letter says. Talk about a potentially sticky docket.